tKnowIT Fax number is no more

For a number of years we haven’t had  a real fax machine or fax line to the office and instead we used an Internet Fax-to-Email service. Reviewing the usage over the last couple of years we’ve had 3 faxes, all from an advertising service which doesn’t cover our area anyway.

The internet fax-to-email service has been reliable, we assume, and extremely cost effective and much less than having a fax line rental and fax machine (and consumables) to pay for. If you still need to receive Faxes then we recommend the service.

As most people communicate with us by phone or email (and can scan things) we have removed the fax number from service.

Recovery Time Calculator

Are you doing backups ?

Do you know how long it will take to recovery the data?

Do you know how much money your business will lose whilst your systems are down or restoring ?

Click here to try out our Recovery Time Calculator to get an idea

The end for Windows XP

On 8th April 2014 Microsoft will end support for both Windows XP and Office 2003. Anyone running their business network with Windows Server 2003 servers should be already planning for end of support for this in 2015.

Windows XPWindows XP has been around for a long time and has been so popular that many users have stuck with it rather than moving to newer operating systems, probably because it was much more reliable than Windows 95, 98, Me (who remembers that one) and 2000 but also better received than its successor, MS Vista. Designed with internet and email access built-in, Windows XP connected with ease to printers, cameras and other peripherals and brought in new security measures for PCs.

If for no other reason, security should be why you replace your machine before April 2014. You will be familiar with the weekly updates your machine receives from Microsoft and many of these updates are to resolve security ‘holes’ found in the operating system. If you are running some internet security software this is unlikely to offer protection for Windows XP from April 2014 or shortly afterwards. This makes online banking and purchasing a very unsafe thing to be doing on a Windows XP machine.

Since the very unpopular MS Vista, and after listening to customers, Microsoft’s Windows 7 software worked with a much wider range of hardware, peripherals and software. Now Windows 7 has been superseded by Windows 8, designed to be easy to use on touch screens. This has not always gone down well with laptop and desktop users who have found it ‘long-winded’ to shut-down and some are annoyed by the ’tiles’.

Over the years Microsoft have released service packs to Windows operating systems which are typically a collection of bug and security fixes. Microsoft has recently released Windows 8.1 which could be taken as the first service pack for Windows 8 and reintroduced the Start button to make it easier to showdown desktops and laptops. Windows 8 also introduces and integrates more ‘cloud’ services.

So if you’re a Windows XP user where should you go next?

Jump ship from Microsoft-based PCs to Apple-based Macs.

Typically at the high-end of the price range of computers but users typically complain less about problems. You can also still get a version of MS Office for Macs if you need to create documents, spreadsheets and prefer MS Outlook as the email client.

Move to a Linux machine.

More difficult to source and more typically built by someone who is familiar with PCs and operating systems. They can work out to be fast and cheap.

Move to a Chrome machine.

Typically you will store everything in the cloud and rely upon a decent internet connection at all times.

Purchase a new Windows 8 PC.

Most computers in the high-street stores and online stores are still Windows based machines. Many of your programs can be reinstalled but also your data (documents, photographs, etc.) will be easy to transfer.

 

What if you’re an Office 2003 user?

You can upgrade to MS Office 2013 or one of the new MS Office subscription options.
Alternatively consider the free LibreOffice/OpenOffice Suites if you’re not bothered about Outlook for email and don’t need all the MS Office features but still need to edit Word/ Excel documents.

If you are a business user then feel free to try out one of the Microsoft Office365 options on a free 30 day trial or call tKnowIT to assist you.

Microsoft Windows 8.1 now available

 

Microsoft Windows 8.1 is now available as a free update to Windows 8 platforms.

Windows 8 works well on tablets but some people have found it slightly frustrating to use on a non-touch laptop or PC. Probably the most frustrating feature to most was how to shutdown or reboot the computer. Normally a tablet is not turned off but put into standby or sleep so there is no need for this to be obvious but when the same operating system is used on a laptop or desktop then a combination of mouse waiving and button clicking gets tricky.

windows 8.1

By reintroducing a Start button type icon in the bottom left corner of the screen most people should be happy again – even though most people only ever clicked the ‘Start’ button to turn off the PC. Left clicking on the button toggles between tile mode and desktop mode; right clicking the button brings up a number of options including access to the control panel and importantly the shutdown /reboot options.

Some of the other updates are more subtle but they will probably make windows 8 easier for people to use, who are familiar with windows 7, but may not be aware of all the things that happen when you put the cursor at the bottom of the screen or in the corners of the screen.

My test machine has been running windows 8 for a while and has performed much faster than windows 7 on the same hardware. Last night I downloaded the windows 8.1 update directly through the Windows Store on windows 8. Once you start the download that’s it until it asks you to reboot the machine. I have the luxury of an FTTC broadband connection so the download didn’t take too long and the windows 8 laptop is a Lenovo Edge15 core i5 (1st gen) , 4GB RAM and importantly an SSD drive (upgraded from original hard drive). The SSD probably made a big different to the speed of the upgrade process but the whole process took about 1 hour and required probably a couple of reboots for windows to discover hardware again and check settings , apps, etc.

After a few hours of use today I would have to say everything appears to be ok. I notice that some of the plug-ins for Internet Explorer (Java and Lenovo password vault) are disabled and a ThinkPad USB 3.0 Dock I use to connect the laptop to a couple of large screens , full keyboard and mouse whilst in the office did not display anything on the screens. Lenovo are usually on the ball with updates and although there was no update available via the system updater I found a link on their support forum to an update for the ThinkPad USB 3.0 Dock on another site. After downloading and running the update the two screens sprang back to life.

I found Windows 8 very easy to use and the inconvenience caused by the odd shutdown process was outweighed by the performance, boot times, etc. Windows 8.1 will hopefully make things even better and encourage others to make the change.

Welcome to the new tKnowIT website

Welcome to the new website design.

At the moment the content is in the process of transferring from the old design and new sections will also be created.

You can still visit the old design by clicking here

Start taking the Tablets

Tablet computers, like SmartPhones, have been around for years but in both areas they were typically expensive and not simple or intuitive to use. Thanks to Apple we now have the iPhone and iPad which just about anyone can pick up and use within a few minutes.

This has led to a range of products trying to compete in this rapidly expanding market sector.

Apple controls both the hardware and software with their iOS based iPhone and iPad devices. They are easy to use and rarely need to be rebooted. The Apps market for both devices is mature and vast. One of the downsides to an iPad is that it does not support ‘flash’ video or websites. Ok for a phone but not on a device many will be looking to use as their main surfing device.

Acer Iconia W500 TabletMicrosoft Windows Phone 7 (WP7) running on SmartPhones from the likes of Samsung, HTC and LG has also proved to be stable and responsive. The Apps market for the WP7 is growing quickly and based on the same model as the Apple Apps store where programs are typically free or relatively low cost and install quickly. (See my separate review of WP7)
Likewise Windows 7 for PCs, laptops, netbooks and tablets is less prone to crash or freeze, compared with Windows XP or Vista, and is typically much more responsive. The Acer Iconia W500 is a good windows 7 based tablet choice.

HP launched their Windows based Slate, which I am not even sure launched into the UK, before releasing their WebOS based TouchPad and announcing that they were reviewing their position in computer market. So TouchPad users may find their device gets no updates, support or Apps. Many reviewers also suggested it was a bit sluggish.

RIM, who makes the Blackberry range, controls both the hardware & software with their Blackberry phones and PlayBook tablet. The tablet gets mixed reviews, has an Apps store but currently is only available with a 7″ screen.

ASUS TF101 TransformerThe majority of other tablets run Android by Google. As they can’t use Apple iOS and Microsoft license Windows 7 and Phone 7 for a fee then using Android can reduce the overall price of the tablet – as it’s free. Android 3 was designed for tablets whilst previous versions were designed, developed and flourished on smaller screened SmartPhones.
Tablet makers can tweak Android and add their own features and Apps to it. This may help to explain why reviews of Android Tablets suggest that performance and stability can vary from brand to brand when, on paper, the specifications of the hardware are the same. The Apps store for Android is mature thanks to its growth on SmartPhones over the last few years.
My shortlist of Android tablets would be the ASUS TF101 Transformer (optional keyboard/ extended battery), Samsung GalaxyTab (if they get the injunctions lifted) and the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet (with optional digitiser pen)

The Tablet market is likely to expand and evolve. Microsoft Windows 8, due for release in 2012, is heavily influenced by ‘touch’. Some vendors are offering interesting features such as Stylus, fingerprint swipe, keyboard attachments. They are an excellent alternative to a NetBook for web browsing and checking emails but it may be another year or so before we can throw away the laptops and desktop PCs.

Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300 Mobile Scanner

For a number of years I have used HP LaserJet All-in-Ones as my preferred office printer and for a similar number of years I have been saying to myself that I must scan all of my personal and business paperwork into an electronic form. One of the reasons the piles of paper got higher and less organised was that the HP scanner feature was single sided and slow. That’s ok if you have only written on one side of a 10 page document but, call me a Yorkshireman, there’s another side to write on.

One of my customers asked if I could get them a ScanSnap as it had been recommended to them. After unpacking and installing the ScanSnap and its software I was a fan and had to have one for my office too.  As the title says, the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300 is a mobile scanner. It’s small but not too small to compromise the task it is asked to do. The combination of the scanner and software allow you to scan both sides of the page with a single scan then save the pages as PDF, searchable PDF, JPG, load into Microsoft Word and numerous other formats.

I am now happily scanning as fast as I can to convert the mountain of paper and shelves of files into an electronic format which I can more easily access whenever and wherever I need along with ensuring it is backed up along with all of my other data.

The Fujitsu ScanSnap is fast, accurate and compact. If you are out and about on the road with your laptop then it can be powered from the USB port if you can’t find a mains point. The only hesitation to getting one of these for some people may be the price which is £200-250 which could make it more viable for business users who would quickly recoup the cost with the time saved scanning and accessing documentation.

Time to upgrade I.T.

TIME TO UPGRADE I.T.

Now is the time to be looking to replace your existing old computer(s). If you were considering buying a new PC or laptop then the planned increase to VAT rates should encourage you to get sorted before the New Year.

Your old machine is likely to be getting noisier, slower and hotter. Over time dust is sucked into the machine and covers the components and starts to block the fans and vents, increasing the temperature of everything and demanding the fans to run faster and for longer. Overheating components are likely to result in a more rapid system failure.

Lenovo EdgeOlder computer processor chips were not designed to run economically. Speed was king and they would run as fast as possible. Unfortunately they ran at 100% speed and power for 100% of the time. The modern computer processors in both PCs and laptops, like the Intel Core2Duo and new Core i Series, are designed to be energy efficient so that they can run longer on battery in laptops and generally use less electricity for day to day tasks but can increase or decrease their speeds according to the task requirements.

Everyone is encouraged to replace their 100w light bulbs with energy-efficient ones but an old PC can be consuming 200w, which is like leaving 2 lights on – and that doesn’t include your monitor which could be another 100w or more. A modern laptop in contrast could consume just 60w whilst in-use and charging the battery.

Many people were put off buying a new machine when they heard bad things about MS Windows Vista, how slow it was, how often it appeared to freeze or crash and that they had to upgrade all their other programs. MS Windows 7, its replacement, is much better. It starts faster, rarely freezes, and runs much more smoothly and efficiently. It is much more user-friendly to older programs that would run on Windows XP and has new features such as the easy to use backup software.

The choice between a desktop PC and a laptop has now been joined by netbooks, slates (and iPads), MediaCentres and All-in-one touch-sensitive devices. Choose wisely and buy something that meets your needs. Something around £400 will get you a good laptop for day-to-day  internet, email and word processing; For gaming, a PC with dedicated graphics is probably more cost-effective.